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How To Answer AQA Psychology Short Context Questions

How To Answer AQA Psychology Short Context Questions

by PsychLogic, published 2020

Although many A-level Psychology questions are straight-forward and can be answered by memorising model answers, the exam will also include ‘context’ questions where you will be asked to apply psychological knowledge to real-life situations.

To score highly in these questions it is vital that you link psychological knowledge to the real-life context provided in a meaningful and sustained way.

Below are 6 short context questions with model answers.

  • For advice on answering 16-mark context essay questions please click here.
  • Hundreds of model answers for all type of questions for all topics for the A-level are available at

  • Social Influence(1)

    Jan and Norah have just finished their first year at university where they lived in a house with six other students. All the other students were very health conscious and ate only organic food. Jan had listened to their point of view and now she also eats only organic food.

    Norah was happy to eat organic food while in the house, but when she went home for the holidays she ate whatever her mother cooked. Both girls conformed, but for different reasons.

    Explain which type of conformity each girl was showing.

    (4 marks)


    “Jan shows internalisation. She has publicly and privately changed her attitudes and now permanently only eats organic food. Norah is showing compliance.

    She only conformed publicly to her friends’ behavior but had obviously not privately undergone attitude change to eating organic as she reverted to eating non-organic in the holidays.

    Norah probably conformed to gain group approval and membership whereas Jan believed the other students to be ‘right’ in their belief that organic food was ‘good’.”

    Social Influence(2)

    (a) Name 3 behaviors that enable a minority to influence a majority.

    (3 marks)

    (b) Marcus wants to persuade his group of friends to go travelling in the summer but the rest of the group would like to go on a beach holiday. Briefly suggest how Marcus might use the 3 behaviors that you have identified in your answer to (a) to persuade his friends to go travelling.

    (3 marks)


    (a) Answer. “Consistency, Commitment, Flexibility.” (No need to explain – just name them).

    (b) Answer. “Marcus should consistently give the same message again and again that the group should go travelling rather than on a beach holiday.

    He should show commitment to his idea by, for example, investing time in planning and organising his proposed trip.

    Lastly, he should some flexibility: for example, he could suggest the group go travelling but they will spend quite a bit of time at the beach whilst travelling.”


    The multi-store model of memory has been criticised in many ways. The following example illustrates a possible criticism.

    Some students read through their revision notes lots of times before an examination, but still find it difficult to remember the information. However, the same students can remember the information in a celebrity magazine, even though they read it only once.

    Explain why this can be used as a criticism of the multi-store model of memory.

    (4 marks)


    “The MSM states that depth of memory trace in LTM is simply a result of the amount of rehearsal that takes place.

    The MSM can be criticised for failing to account for how different types of material can result in different depth memory traces even though they’ve both been rehearsed for a similar amount of time.

    For example, people may recall information they are interested in (e.g. information in celebrity magazines) more than material they are not interested in (e.g. revision notes) despite the fact that they have both been rehearsed for a similar amount of time.

    Therefore, the MSM’s view of long-term memory can be criticised for failing to take into account that material we may pay more attention to or is more meaningful/interesting to us may cause a deeper memory trace which is recalled more easily.”


    Bryan has been driving for five years. Whilst driving, Bryan can hold conversations or listen to music with little difficulty. Bob has had four driving lessons. Driving requires so much of Bob’s concentration that, during lessons, he often misses what his driving instructor is telling him.

    With reference to features of the working memory model, explain the different experiences of Bryan and Bob.

    (4 marks)

    A tricky question – the answer lies in Bryan being able to divide the different components of his STM because he is experienced at driving and doesn’t need to devote all his attention to the task of driving (controlled by the visuo-spatial sketchpad).


    “Because Bryan has been driving for 5 years it is an ‘automated’ task for him, it makes fewer attentional demands on his central executive so he is free to perform other tasks (such as talking or listening to music) and thus is able to divide resources between his visuo-spatial sketch pad (driving) and phonological loop (talking and listening to music).

    As Bob is inexperienced at driving this is not the case for him – his central executive requires all of his attentional capacity for driving and thus cannot divide resources effectively between components of working memory.”


    Diane is a 30-year-old businesswoman and if she does not get her own way she sometimes has a temper tantrum. Recently, she attended her grandmother’s funeral and laughed during the prayers. When she talks to people she often stands very close to them, making them feel uncomfortable.

    Identify one definition of abnormality that could describe Diane’s behavior. Explain your choice.

    (4 marks)


    “Diana’s behavior could be defined as deviating from social norms.

    Although she is 30 she still has childish temper tantrums, she acted in a socially abnormal way at her grandmother’s funeral and she disobeys social norms about how close it is appropriate to stand to people.

    She is deviating from what is regarded as socially normal, thus according to this definition she would be defined as psychologically abnormal.


    Anca is an orphan who has been adopted by a British couple. Before being adopted, Anca lived in an institution with lots of other children in very poor conditions. Her new parents are understandably concerned about how Anca’s early experiences may affect her in the future.

    Use your knowledge of the effects of institutionalisation to advise Anca’s new parents about what to expect.

    (5 marks)

    You have to advise her parents on what to expect.


    “Apart from suffering maternal deprivation, because Anca lived in an institution with very poor conditions, she may have been mentally under-stimulated, malnourished and uncared for.

    In a study of similar children conducted by Rutter, orphans scored worse than a control group on measures of physical, social and cognitive development.

    Therefore, Anca may be physically and intellectually underdeveloped for her age and may show poor peer relations and disinhibited attachment - a form of insecure attachment where children do not discriminate between people to whom they try to attach to, being overly friendly, clingy and attention seeking.

    However, if she does form an attachment at a fairly young age these negative effects may be reversed.”

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